Country Living Series

Friday, May 9, 2014

Are malls dead?

The girls and I were in Spokane yesterday doing our usual "city day" errands. One particular errand took us near a mall. We had a little spare time, so on impulse I asked the girls if they wanted to walk around. Malls are far away from us and we seldom set foot inside one, so this was a rare treat.

But the inside startled us. It seemed barren, with empty storefronts everywhere. Keep in mind this was a Thursday afternoon, about 1 pm.


The mall was spacious and well-lit with two floors, but I'm estimating about half (or more) of the store fronts were empty. The food court, which should have been decently full of people since it was still lunch time, only had about three out of (perhaps) fifteen food vendors open. One or two tables had diners, that was it.


We passed some interesting displays, such as this "trashion" exhibit (fashions made of trash), some of which were very clever.




There were a few vibrant corners in some spots, but you'll notice shoppers are conspicuously absent.


And so much of the mall was dismally empty. At this point it seemed like a downward spiral with no shops to attract shoppers, and no shoppers to keep shops in business.



The interesting thing is this mall is located in an enormously crowded part of Spokane in what seems like a decent neighborhood. It has some large anchor stores -- Sears, Barnes & Noble, Macy's. Yet it's dying.

Oh, I forgot to add... we've been in this mall before. We pop in every couple of years. In prior times it was bustling, with full store fronts and lots of people.

It is just this mall, or is it malls in general? We don't go into enough different ones to know. Thoughts?

48 comments:

  1. What a strange, eerie sight! Makes you wonder what everyone else knows that we don't!

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  2. Hard to tell. I think it's a sign of the general economy of the area. The Lexington, KY area is actually showing signs of growth, and so is the local mall. While the Sears anchor store closed, they are filling the vacant area with 20 more stores, and the mall is pretty crowded on a daily basis. YMMV....

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    1. Crustyrusty, I'm from the Lexington area, too. There used to be three malls in Lexington - don't know if you remember or lived here during that time. They have both died over the past 15 years. Fayette Mall always had the edge on them, and when they expanded about 10 years ago, the others could no longer compete. Of course, the economy didn't help...

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  3. hi. saw a link somewhere to a website of just pictures of abandoned malls.
    they should be given to habitat for humanity, made into apartments with indoor grocery stores. a little village under cover.
    they are some of them lovely with fountains and skylights. such a waste.
    deb h.

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    1. That's a good option. I saw that link too! Kind of sad and pitiful to see all those dead buildings.

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    2. I think that link was Deadmalls.com. Stories and pictures of those dying citadels to 70's and 80's shopping norms.

      TnMike

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  4. We live in rural Oregon far from any store, much less a mall. So whenever we are in the bigger cities, we do check out the malls. This is the same situation we have seen for the last 4 years, no matter what time of day or week day it is. Sad. And kind of scary, economically.

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  5. getting like that here in South Carolina too...makes ya wonder.

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  6. Hm, I've never been in one like that. I think it's just that one...

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  7. In the Dallas area the outlet malls died several years ago and the regular malls are dying as we type. Amazon is the killer I think. You can get anything you want at a fair price and it shows up at your doorstep. Even some of the big box stores Sears, Penneys, Belk Lows ETC seem to have fewer shoppers than a few years ago.

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  8. We have one mall local that is dying, it looks about like that, but it worse shape physically.

    We have one mall locally thats better than that, but not by a ton, and its been in that shape for several years now.

    And we have one mall locally that they're trying to expand. They insist that there's a demand for it. And I will say that they don't have very many empty store fronts and its in good repair. But I have my doubts as to the demand....

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  9. Can hardly find a place to park at Clackmas Town Center near Portland, Oregon.

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  10. Same is happening here in Indiana and Ohio area. Mall rent for retailers is very high plus they pay a percentage of annual sales, this is a real burden for most small retailers. Strip malls have lower rent this is the new pattern of change. I agree that the Internet has been a downfall for malls. I would rather shop online than in the stores. Definitely a sign of the economy.

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  11. There are 2 malls in Chattanooga. They are super packed all of the time. The smaller of the two malls was starting to spiral down until a development group bought it and is renovating. They also brought in a large store, Macy's. No sign of slowing mall business here.

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  12. My husband and I have noticed this trend as well. I don't know what is to blame, because the shopping centers around here do well, it is just the indoor malls that are suffering. I guess malls were just a fad!

    Renee

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  13. Two smaller malls near me have all but gone out of business. Larger ones, I am not sure I haven't gone in a couple years. Went to the Lego store in one last time I went and it seemed pretty empty of everything but trolling teens. I can tell you that the parking lot of bass pro shop is packed all of the time?

    BUT. They are clearing more and more land, bulldozing orange groves and open space to put in warehouses. To hold more stuff. Probably all plastic junk from china. We have had so many dollar type stores open. I can't even describe... just warehouse after warehouse. And amazon distribution centers, and a newer fedex distribution facility.

    So, I guess what people wants is junk. Oh, and storage units are real big here too... you know, so you can store the stuff you don't have room for in your house so you can buy more stuff on credit.

    *sigh*

    Inland Empire, Southern California

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  14. Marion Il. mall is at least half empty. If the anchor stores were not there it would be closed.

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  15. I think it depends on the mall (and its management) and its location - there are 3 malls within 40 minutes of me; 2 are vibrant, active, well kept, and busy - the 3rd has only ONE store left in it - the only open entrance is by that store and the rest of the mall is closed with a little low picket fence after that store. It's not quite post apocalyptic, but its going downhill fast!

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  16. I think it really depends on the area and the stores that are actually in the mall. In order to attract the high school/college crowd that most malls appeal to, they have to actually have stores that appeal to those age groups and many malls don't have stores like that anymore. When I was a younger kid their was a small mall in my town of Nampa, ID that was full of stores and always busy. When Boise built a bigger mall and had more stores everyone went there instead so stores started to leave and even now that mall is pretty pathetic with its lack of stores and you never see many younger people there. The large town nearest me now is Twin Falls and their mall is not huge, just 1 story but almost all store fronts are full and it is always packed with the younger crowd, but this mall has all the clothing stores that appeal to that crowd as well as several video game related stores and a giant movie theater that actually plays all the new movies, so it brings in crowds, but there is also a lack of other stores in the area, so they get the business. Now in this same area stores like Target, Shopko, and Fred Meyer are losing business because they charge the same prices as all the mall stores and don't have the greatest selection, while stores like Walmart are thriving with the poorer population. I do think in a lot of more urban areas though malls are in decline like others said because of online shopping, I know in my area many people who live 30+ miles away from a big town just subscribe to amazon prime and just order everything to their house and get free shipping on almost everything, saves a ton of money in fuel costs and you don't have to deal with stores being out of everything. Online shopping will lead to the demise of many stores.

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  17. I think some of these folks are right. There are several reasons malls appear to be dying. Certainly the Internet is a major cause. Recently my wife and I bought a microwave from Kmart. The model we wanted was listed as available in our local store and we needed it right away, so we went to the store to buy it. They actually wanted MORE at the store than the price they showed online! The saleslady told us that was to encourage people to buy online. We persisted and got the microwave for the online price. Hmm... So it would seem that the chain stores themselves are part of the problem! Also, we know the lease/rent in a mall is very high. Whoever owns the stores is charging too darn much to rent their outlets! That has always been a problem. Some big company in New York or wherever charges the same rent everywhere, but everyone isn't making the same wages across the nation. Renting an apartment is ridiculously expensive in New York, for example, as compared to other parts of the country. Same goes for store outlets. --Fred in AZ

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  18. We have 6 indoor malls near Nashville, all within 45 miles of our home. 1 has shut down completely because of gangs, they even had shootings happen in the mall. One only has a Sears in it. 3 are doing fine and the last one is a giant Mills mall. It is always crowded, cars are backed up for a mile at the exits on weekends. It is suppose to be a discount mall, but I don't think it is. That is always a place that our company likes to visit - men for the hunting/fishing store and mom and girls for the shops. I am guilty of doing most, 90%, of my shopping online, free shipping, cheaper prices. I am just not a window shopper. Considering that only 2 of the 6 have closed in the last couple of years, I think Mall life is doing very well her in middle TN.

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  19. I'm not sure. I live in the Houston area and haven't set foot in a mall in over 6 years even though I live 10 minutes from one. The other day I needed to go to a store that was close to the mall. My 9 year old daughter asked where the store was and I said it was close to the mall. She asked, "What is a mall?" Made me smile :)

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  20. We have a similar mall near us in Council Bluffs. So many factors can affect a mall: cost of rent, demographics of area, proximity of others shopping, internet sales, depressed economy, general cost of living, unemployment/underemployment. The growth of the 80-90's and early 00's was clearly not sustainable. Many citizens have realized that happiness doesn't come from things, but from relationships. Environmental concerns play a role also; more people are conscious of reusing, repurposing and recycling/upcycling, all of which means less new stuff is being purchased. Look at the growth of thrift stores and second hand stores. I personally like to shop at owner operated stores where there is mutual get-to-know-you chat and more personalized service.

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  21. Oh my goodness...is that the Valley Mall? We never go either...but, that is certainly a concerning sight for the area!

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    1. No, it's the Northtown Mall on Division.

      - Patrice

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    2. Here's a newspaper article from last October about the Northtown Mall in Spokane. Note the comments mention the vacancies in the mall, but the article doesn't.

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    3. Here's the article in the Spokane newspaper about renovations scheduled for the Northtown Mall. Note that the comments speak of the vacancies but the article does not. http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2013/oct/25/renovations-planned-at-northtown-mall/

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  22. One of the malls in the city closest to us is pretty much like this, and a good chunk of it is now a college satellite.

    The other, which is ideally located, had a disturbing number of empty storefronts last time we went. We actively avoid the city, and even when we're in the city, we actively avoid the mall. So it has been a pretty long while since we were there.

    I personally chalk the retreat in the economy up to government policies and regulation. Obamacare has closed many business doors, and caused others to downscale. No job, no money, no mall shopping.

    My husband would have his own business if it were possible to navigate the red tape. It's gotten so confusing... ask a question, and you will hear both "yes" and "no" as the answer. You have to already be wealthy in order to afford the insurance.

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  23. Here in far north central Illinois there are three malls that I can think of. The major one with three anchor stores is an indoor mall. It was constructed in the 70's and has changed owners a few times. Each time you would see a spurt of growth with the new owners. There is one other indoor mall on a smaller scale one floor. As far as I know it is closed, J.C. Penney had an outlet store there but closed last year. The other large mall is a strip mall, it has not faired well over the past twenty years. There are several different strip malls some with stand alone stores. From time to you will see one going out of business, some quite large ones. The demographics of the major city here, Rockford has changed dramatically over the past twenty years. And has changed the way and places where people who were born and raised here shop. There a lot of small 4, 5 , 6 store strip malls that were built over the last 10 years. Some have never had a tenant, just sitting there empty. I live in a bordering county which is primarily agricultural. All of our local business, privately owned seem to be doing fine, but we don't have any "malls" in the county.

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  24. Thank you Obama for the 2nd great depression.

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  25. Nope, not near Grand Rapids, MI. Parking lots are usually pretty full....not with my car, however. Frankly with so many places having free online shipping, I really don't need to drive ($8) to somewhere and shop to find out they don't have what I need to drive somewhere else....to end up at home ordering it online.

    I just ordered some new work clothes for the husband online at Penneys. They don't stock his size shirts (20-36) (yes I have to iron and starch those weekly) in the store. So online they were having a sale, free shipping on $75 AND another 20% off if I used the credit card. And undershirts normally $32 for 4 (size XXLT) were then $23 ea. for two packs and another 20% off. Nobody has those t-shirts either. Its a no brainer for me. I'll pay the bill when it comes and they won't get a nickel off me in interest.

    I think the problem with mall is that they don't cater to the average person. Teens, tweens, and yuppies (who think they have the money to spend on things to MAKE them something they are not, but end up in debt because their pay is also something that isn't either.)

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    1. mdoe,
      thanks. husband in same size category but cannot find locally. always used penneys for the quality but now difficult to find nearby. not young so using computer did not occur to me. duh!
      deb h.

      yes. catering to those skinny kids and losing millions of dollars of business as a result. like newspapers trying to cater to non-readers and losing a loyal following as a result.

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  26. Our little towns in this region only have strip malls, and those are dying on the vine. Many of their anchor stores have gone, after all the local shops folded.
    The only 'growth' has been adjacent to the Walmart location, and hasn't kept pace with the closures.

    Ouchie.

    A.McSp

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  27. Where I live in Oklahoma, there is a mall that when I was a kid (I'm 38 now) that died a slow death. It used to be a busy hopping little joint; not so now. The only things in it are a Sears and a CHURCH that is a new addition. There is another one several miles away that is starting to have the same thing happen to it. It's not just the economy; I don't know what it IS but it's pretty sad!

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  28. Mall? What's a mall? I thought mauls were for splitting wood.

    (Sorry. Can you guess what I've been doing lately?)

    I'm all in on the theory that internet sales contributes to this decline in brick and mortar stores. Also, social media has taken over with the young'uns - no need to go hang out at the mall anymore.

    I've always thought malls were soul-crushing: Cold. Loud. Brassy. Cavernous. These spooky photos of an empty one kind of make my point.

    Just me

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  29. Westfield Malls says they may be up to 60% overbuilt in mall space. There was an explosion of bigger/better starting in 2000. The smaller venues were still in demand as the big ones were built because the older malls were already paid for and depreciated, and could afford to offer lower rents for specialty shops that might not generate enough volume to support the higher rents at the big new malls.

    Then the Internet happened, and small specialty goods shops closed up fast, since if your selling maple honey dippers and floating bulb hydrometers, it's easier to keep them in a bedroom and have the whole world to advertise to via search engine, rather than pay even modest rents for brick and morter stores with required glass insurance, lots of permits,etc.

    A series of recessions occurred, the dot com bust ocurred while the internet was still finding its place in commerce. The 2001 attacks has a big effect on retail, and then 2003 came along and gave businesses a sucker punch. The Bush admin. responded with a massive flood of money into the economy via Greenspan and Brenenke dropping the interest rates. People borrowed like crazy and spent like crazy and the demand for all that mall space was met. When the "Great Recession" hit, all the levers had been pulled and there was nothing left but a pile of debts, and tapped out consumers. The Web sellers were hit with lower sales, but their business model of : low cost, no rent my office is my bedroom became a survival model. They had been steadily gaining ground on rented mall space since 2000, when web businesses were starting to gain acceptance for products other than just specialty goods. The poor saps that started up in lower rent malls were hit hardest, and a lot of people lost their shirts going bust, stuck with inventory they could not hardly give away.

    Bottom line, we are going to see a lot of "right sizing" in retail. One bright spot is that multi use buildings are coming back in a big way. They have a shop below and the owner's apartment upstairs. It's a 1900s idea that is coming back. Unfortunately for 90's style shopping malls there is not much to do with them but tear them down and build something that works. I like the re-use, re-purpose idea, but shopping malls are highly efficient at moving masses of goods and people in and out. They are horrible as living space. They have flat roofs, which are the most expensive roofs in the world to maintain. The logistics of getting to your appartment would be tough. The cost of maintaining all of that indoor common space would be prohibitive. Better to knock 'em down and build high rise condos or appartments. Perhaps a portion of the mall could be saved for shops and sevices. My two cents.

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  30. I think the economy has something to do with it - after all, if I can get something equally cheap from the internet as from going to the mall, I will. It is also demographics - at one time (I remember this time) one went to the mall simply to hang out. The demographic has changed, I think - going to the mall is just another place to go with nothing to do when there are a ton of things to do elsewhere.

    Perhaps the breakdown of the mall has helped - the last time I went to our closest mall here, it was 85% clothing/makeup/technology stores with some big box anchors. Essentially a large of number of stores selling almost the same thing. How many clothing stores can you go through?

    And for my own point of view, the idea of spending fuel money to go where a large group of people are milling around is pretty much a non-starter with me.

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  31. Yes, malls are dying. The one in a city near us looks the same just less bright. Only the big anchor stores with outside entrances remain.

    My husband whose from Ohio/PA saw a youtube video of a closed abandoned mall he and his family shopped at around Xmas when he was a boy...it made him kinda of sad.

    But you know the economy stinks and people can't afford the over priced materialist lifestyle anymore...sorry malls but you guys are a dying breed.

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  32. Today, we visited the Marion, Illinois mall. The few stores are staffed with helpful salespeople, but empty storefronts are common. Nearby, a neat and clean Goodwill store appears to be thriving. The Carbondale, Illinois mall appears to be in much better shape. I first visited the Carbondale/Marion area in 1957. Grain farms and beautiful dairies (with pretty cows and wooden barns), covered the general area that is now malls and other businesses. I still miss the farms!

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  33. Fwiw, both the big malls up north and in the valley have an... interesting... management group. They're not exactly known for being super sweet to tenants or having great lease prices (whereas RPS has come back in the last decade). I'm sure that has something to do with it.

    Similar thing happened to the the old University mall off Sprague - can't remember the name, but it had been empty for a good 15-20 years, seems the sheriff's dept uses it now. Quite creepy inside now (took location shots for a potential film shoot years back).

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  34. When our family sees this kind of thing, which we do quite often, we call it "Obamaworld". It's not your imagination; it's the slow destruction of capitalism in America.

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  35. At least some of the problems with malls comes from the general problems with their main anchors: the department stores.

    The start of the slide of the malls seems to have been with the slow decline of these stores.

    Wal-Mart and the category killer specialty stores were the start.

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  36. My mother, now deceased, loved to talk about her childhood experiences. Many of her comments didn't sound like a kid, but more like her grandmother and aunt with whom she lived. Mom often told about the stores that tried to make it during the depression, but didn't. She said it was so sad to see them put up a sign, "We tried but we didn't make it." She also told of a depression era furniture store that was not selling any furniture. They started to sell brooms, and other household items, keeping them going until better times. It would be difficult to see that today, given that most of the stores are franchises. If it weren't so sad, it would be laughable to remember the many articles from years ago, questioning the value of buying franchises instead of starting your own business without one.

    Mom also told about the small store owners who lived above or behind their stores. The overhead costs must have been less than today.

    The independent store owner is a rarity today, and costs are excessive in all areas. While not all are, it seems that the last bastion of mom and pop stores are on the internet...for now.

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  37. I don't like malls, so I rarely go to the one in our area. Occasionally though, I will go for something like a Mother's Day gift, wedding gift, or when my daughter needs something particular. Recently she needed a solid white dress for an occasion and going to the mall does give you enough selection to find that sort of thing, rather than driving all over looking. Ours seemed to be doing fair, as there were a good many stores open (maybe 70%) capacity, but there were very few shoppers. It used to be completely full with many shoppers. One of the problems is the young men idling hanging out there all the time, I've heard that it's a common gang hang-out which keeps many people away.

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  38. Patrice
    I will admit that sometimes that I have to much time on my hands.
    But just for your interest and this doesn't really answer your question, but go to You Tube and type in empty malls. You will
    be suprisse how many empty malls, Theme parks.etc are areound
    Amerca.I mean we are a ruinous country, You will be very suprize
    how many empty malls, theme parks and etc there are around
    America
    Blessings

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  39. I was in a medium sized mall in a heavily populated and growing community in central Nebraska on a Saturday. The mall was virtually empty, stores virtually empty. Expensive merchandise and clothing just sitting there, barely any shoppers. I do believe it is the economy. I remember this mall and others in the state absolutely bustling on a Saturday in the summer--not even holiday time! Malls are dying. People are trying to save what money they have, or they are comparing prices and shopping on line, or shopping discount stores such as TJMax, Marshalls, etc.

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  40. The decline of that particular mall is impossible to miss. I haven't noticed much decline of the other mall downtown, as it attracts the upper income residents from nearby. Meanwhile, north area shoppers tend to go to the discount box stores or the strip malls like the one across the street. I don't think the area can really support two full sized malls in the present economy.

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  41. I guess I should not be (I should see it as a sign of bad times) but honestly seeing the death of the mall pleases me.

    I hope that it signifies the beginning of the end of the "consume, consume, consume" culture.

    I love this country, and have yet to come up with a better economic system than capitalism, but realistically the ethos of consumption is entirely out of hand.

    I feel for the small businessperson, deeply, and you can except yourselves from the following comment.

    But I think our environment, our pocketbooks, our families, and probably our souls could benefit from the withering of the ethos of consumption.

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